Posh kids make pop

The Word magazine reports that 60% of acts in the charts in one week in October had been privately-educated, compared to 1% during the same week in 1990. A teacher in the New Statesman says this is down to lack of funding for music education in schools.

I don’t think this is true… Certainly not in Bristol. The secondary schools are far better-equipped with musical instruments – and even recording equipment now – than schools were in my day. I’ve seen kids playing around on computers, presumably mixing tracks, in mini-recording studios in schools, and it’s rare to visit a school without getting to see a musical performance. They make videos too.

There may be less emphasis on learning classical instruments, that’s true, but if we’re talking about the charts here, we’re not really talking about producing violin prodigies. All my generation had were triangles, glockenspiels and recorder practice; but we still came up with punk rock!  

Which leads me on to my second point… being able to make great music isn’t something that you’re taught at school. In fact it’s the antithesis of it. It’s great if the school can provide kids with somewhere to rehearse and some recording equipment to mess around with, but Miss Wheeler the music teacher (that was the name of our music teacher) is not going to lab-create the next Arctic Monkeys.

I suspect the reason the charts are now so private-school educated has a lot more to do with the fact the charts are now dominated by money-making concerns, and genuine creativity has very little to do with it. Certainly there’s a real lack of music with any edge, so maybe it’s because middle-class politeness rules the roost as far as the record-buying public* is concerned. Or maybe it’s because Labour got more working-class kids into university and jobs, and they don’t have to turn to rock and roll to give them a way out of the ghetto anymore…. (That was tongue firmly in cheek by the way. But as one of the comments on the New Statesman blog notes: ‘As I saw on one student blog, “at least we’ll get some decent music now!”‘)

* Do we still refer to “the record-buying public” or is that akin to one’s great-aunt talking about the gramophone?

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  • Sarah  On December 6, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I figured this was more to do with the time and cash it tales to get a music career running than education – if you don’t have a rich mum and dad to stump up for instruments/tour costs/food while you’re not making any money, good luck persuading your bank manager.

  • Alasdair  On December 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    No doubt the other 40% are all accounted for by alumni of the Elliot School! (Alma Mater of The xx, Four Tet, The Maccabees, Burial and Hot Chip…)

  • SteveL  On December 6, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    -Maybe the current focus on docile revenue streams for the big labels is it, but as the streets outside have a flavour of the early 1980s, there may be a return to the anger and music of that era.

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